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Interview with a car wash owner

Car wash franchisee Q&A: “I measure success by customer return rates”

Daniel Harrison reveals the key to running a successful car wash business (hint: it has nothing to do with how you wield a sponge).

Daniel Harrison is the 34-year-old owner of three car wash franchises operating under the Magic Hand Car Wash brand, which has a significant share of the market.

Harrison, who has bought and sold two franchises, in Perth and Melbourne, in addition to the Melbourne locations he still owns, chatted to us about the merits of franchising, the transferable skills he brought from McDonald’s and the importance of putting the customer front and centre.

BusinessesForSale.com: Why did you decide to buy a car wash franchise?

Daniel Harrison: I was self-driven to work for myself, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I had a lot of experience with McDonald’s systems and processes, so a colleague referred me to the car wash industry.

People sign up to a franchise to work for themselves; the product itself isn’t as important as being your own boss. If you want to go into business, you want to go into business.

BFS: What did you do before running a car wash?

DH: I worked for McDonald’s for 12 years and in that time I worked my way up to being operations consultant for the Frankston region. I then moved across to Apple where I worked as a site manager for three years.

BFS: Did you bring any transferable skills from your previous employment?

DH: All of them! McDonald's is service-based, so it’s all about customer journeys – the time spent in line, how you can make the customer experience special etc – so it’s very similar. I felt that a lot of my skills in that area were very adaptable.

Everything I do is based on the customer and making them happy and comfortable. The little extras like free wifi and a cafe on site are just one example of this.

BFS: What are the advantages of being part of a franchise?

DH: I went into a franchise to be comfortable. I didn’t know the first thing about the back end: the point of sale, where to get car wash chemicals from, how to prepare the site etc.

Being with a franchise gives you all that support.

BFS: What kind of third-party advice did you get and what was the most helpful?

DH: I spoke to a solicitor; I was very careful to get their feedback. I also talked to an accountant who was positive about what it all looked like from a numbers point of view.

I’m lucky because my father is experienced in business lending and insolvency, so he was very useful for making projections and looking at balance sheets – all those things I thought I knew but maybe didn’t fully understand the intricacies of.

BFS: What would be your number one piece of advice for someone thinking about buying their own car wash business?

DH: The business is built on your team and what you offer to your customer. There’s no room to purchase the business and sit back and relax.

If you want the business to grow, you have to get to know your customers’ expectations, to build trust and respect so they keep coming back.

Customers value the service, quality and relationship with the business. They want to know who the owner is; they want to know they can talk to you if there’s a problem.

BFS: Would you do anything differently if you started again from scratch?

DH: I was too strict at the start, which is something I’ve changed now. I didn’t give enough time to analyse the business with the team.

I would say “this is how we’re doing it” without consultation. I’m now more relaxed about understanding the demographic of the customers and talking to staff before making any decisions. I’m much more open to feedback.

BFS: How do you measure your success?

DH: I don’t care about the dollars, to be honest: the profit is secondary. I measure my success on customer return rates and customer satisfaction surveys.

The team atmosphere and attitude are also important. If you’ve got the right team and they’re good at delivering the product, then everything else will follow.

Feeling inspired to buy a car wash? Take a look at our car washes for sale.



Faye Ferris

About the author

APAC Sales & Marketing Director for BusinessesForSale.com, the world’s most popular website for buying and selling businesses globally and attracting over 1.5 Million visitors each month. To contact Faye please email faye@BusinessesForSale.com

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